To Succeed as a Leader You Need to Manage Expectations

Life is leadership and leadership is life.

How we lead ourselves is how we lead our lives.

A client of mine had an important interview not long ago, for an opportunity that she had been pursing for months. Her expectation was that this new position would give her the recognition she deserved for all the hard work she had put into the leadership of her team and project.

She later called to tell me that someone else had been given the position. She was extremely disappointed, and her first response was the same that most of use would have: She began to question herself.

Why wasn’t I good enough?
Why did they hire someone else ?
How will I ever get an opportunity like this again?

After acknowledging her feelings and great disappointment, I explained to her that she needed to look at the situation in a different way.

What if this position wasn’t meant to be yours?
What if there’s something better suited to you?
What if you were overqualified?

When we create expectations, we create connection to a outcome.

Expectations create an attachment to an outcome, a need for something to happen outside ourselves.

When we allow our expectations to take over we become obsessed with the way things are supposed to be.

We stop working in the present moment and bringing the best of who we are to the task at hand. We become less than ourselves.

Expectations create within us an intense gap between what is and what will be.

When we let go of expectations, we live in the present moment. We have the bandwidth for more curiosity, more creativity, more connectedness.

Expectations make us feel insecure. They feed our worst nightmares of uncertainty, doubt, hesitation, self-consciousness, anxiety, fear, and worry.

As leaders who lead from within, it’s important that we learn to let go of expectations and replace them with wonderment as illustrated in my post; Leadership of Wonder.

Wonder about the new position.
Wonder what else could be in store.
Wonder if you are supposed to be doing something else.

Lead From Within:  Leadership is about earning and learning, to succeed as a leader you need to manage your expectations if you want to excel.

 


Lolly Daskal is one of the most sought-after executive leadership coaches in the world. Her extensive cross-cultural expertise spans 14 countries, six languages and hundreds of companies. As founder and CEO of Lead From Within, her proprietary leadership program is engineered to be a catalyst for leaders who want to enhance performance and make a meaningful difference in their companies, their lives, and the world.

Of Lolly’s many awards and accolades, Lolly was designated a Top-50 Leadership and Management Expert by Inc. magazine. Huffington Post honored Lolly with the title of The Most Inspiring Woman in the World. Her writing has appeared in HBR, Inc.com, Fast Company (Ask The Expert), Huffington Post, and Psychology Today, and others. Her newest book, The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness has become a national bestseller.

39 Responses to “To Succeed as a Leader You Need to Manage Expectations”

  1. Alli Polin

    13. Aug, 2013

    Lolly – When I moved overseas, people were surprised I was willing to go without seeing the town where we’d be living first. How would I know what it would be like? What if it’s absolutely awful? I intentionally stepped away from those expectations instead to experience the unfolding of a new adventure and opening myself to new possibilities. Fully sinking into the present took away the pain and fear of expectations that may (or may not) be unmet.

    Also – love the perspective that when outcomes don’t match our expectations… what if that’s what’s meant to be. That’s a what if that takes me places I want to go!

    Thanks, Lolly!

    Reply to this comment
    • lollydaskal

      13. Aug, 2013

      I can imagine it might have been scary to go to a new place, without expectations. just to go.
      you are fearless!

      if you never expected, you will never be disappointed.

      by letting go of expectations it gives us the space for wonderment and excitement.

      Thanks Alli for sharing, I enjoyed reading your thoughts.
      Lolly

      Reply to this comment
  2. Karin Hurt

    13. Aug, 2013

    I recently experienced this first hand. I was hiring for a new DIrector on my team. I had been mentoring and guiding many who went for the job. They prepared extremely well interviewed elegantly. Only one could be selected. It was painful to sit with the others in their dissapointment and violated expectations.

    I know the future is bright for each of them. The hard part is helping people to see that. Your post helps.

    Reply to this comment
    • lollydaskal

      13. Aug, 2013

      I do wish them well and I do hope they keep a WONDER mindset for the future.

      Thanks Karin for sharing. I truly appreciate you.

      Reply to this comment
  3. Martina

    13. Aug, 2013

    Good points as always, Lolly. We should indeed have hope and wonder for the future. But, you are correct in that we delude ourselves by buying into expectations and some misguided sense of entitlement.

    We will not get everything in life that we seek or pursue. That is life, and that is also part of being an adult. But the one thing in life that we can control is our response. Yes, we should look within, but to regroup and go after the next thing. Gettting or not getting a position can not, and should never be, the final definition of who we are or of our worth.

    Reply to this comment
    • lollydaskal

      13. Aug, 2013

      Martina,

      i love when you stop by, i am always learning from you.
      You are right the only thing we can control is “our response” to our lives.
      look within and lead with heart.
      the final definition is LOVE.

      love your wisdom!

      Lolly

      Reply to this comment
  4. Bill | LeadershipHeartCoaching

    13. Aug, 2013

    I appreciate how you start this post with life is leadership and leadership is life because these same questions can easily be asked outside of work.

    What if this man/woman was not meant to be my lifelong mate?
    What if there was someone better suited for me?

    I still remember how I was crushed by a breakup 35 years ago. Today, I am blessed with a woman who I have been married to for 32 years and two absolutely wonderful daughters. A life I would not have had if things had only went the way I *thought* was best for me at one time.

    Reply to this comment
    • lollydaskal

      13. Aug, 2013

      Thanks for sharing your story, it is exactly what is being said in this post.

      you were crushed but you got something better, you found your soul mate.

      Leadership and life is always life and leadership.

      Who we are at work, is what we are at home.

      I Appreciate you BILL!

      Lolly

      Reply to this comment
  5. J. P. Lucas

    13. Aug, 2013

    Hi Lolly, thanks for challenging the status quo with this post. You really made me reflect on self-expectations and what type of expectations are healthy versus detrimental.

    Sam Walton said, “High expectations are the key to everything.”

    I think his point is true to a degree, but perhaps could be better stated…

    A high degree of wonderment and healthy stretch-goals are the key to everything.

    As always, thanks for sharing!

    J. P.

    Reply to this comment
    • lollydaskal

      13. Aug, 2013

      J.P.

      No disrespect for Sam Walton, but I subscribe to aspects of wonderment instead of expectations.
      intentions instead of i need.

      it just frees us up for more than we expect.

      Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. I appreciate you.

      Lolly

      Reply to this comment
  6. LaRae Quy

    13. Aug, 2013

    Love that opening sentence: life is leadership and leadership is life. The first person we lead is ourselves and if we can’t do that, we need to stop and re-evaluate what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.

    In every situation in which my expectations were met by obstacles or adversity, I chose to react with “what if?” These two words open the world of possibility. It’s the “Leadership of Wonder” that you mentioned. By using this mindset, the world opens up with opportunities instead of closing down with disappointment.

    As always, thanks for your words of encouragement.

    Reply to this comment
    • lollydaskal

      13. Aug, 2013

      What if is another form of wonderment. I like that.

      my heart wonders, my mind expects
      my heart says what if, my mind hopes.

      there is a big distinction in the mindset and heart set.

      Thanks LaRae for expanding on the idea.

      My post Leadership of wonder.

      thanks Lolly

      Reply to this comment
  7. Panteli Tritchew

    13. Aug, 2013

    Great post, Lolly.

    As leaders, we are trained and paid to project-plan and to strategic-plan large-scale projects involving hundreds of employees and millions of dollars. We invest in the plan and the company invests in the outcomes. “Outcome investment” makes good sense on a large, corporate scale…

    On the other hand….

    A blank canvas may be viewed as empty, or viewed as full of infinite possibilities.

    It’s wise to plan for the future, but necessary operate in the present. 😉 Panteli

    Reply to this comment
    • lollydaskal

      13. Aug, 2013

      I agree Panteli, a blank canvas may be looked at as empty, but it open the infinite possibilities for a MASTERPIECE.

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving us with such wisdom. I appreciate you!

      See you tonight on #leadfromwithin.

      Lolly

      Reply to this comment
  8. Samantha

    13. Aug, 2013

    In reality, expectations are not something we can or should try to separate ourselves from. The difference lies in whether or not our expectations can be considered healthy and realistic or not.

    Example: When I bring my own hidden agenda and expectations into my relationships, those are often unrealistic. They might be based on my own beliefs and assumptions that I have about relationships. Unless the other person knows my expectations and believes the same way I do, I have inadvertently set myself up for some disappointments. It seems that this is the type of expectation that falls in line with your post.

    On the other hand, I do believe we need to retain a certain level of expectations when it comes to certain things; like how we want/need to be treated in a romantic relationship, or with a business partner. The kind of expectations that have to do with basic human dignity and respect.

    If we let go of those kind of expectations, we set ourselves up for tolerating dehumanizing behavior. In this way, the expectation to be treated with common decency and respect is a healthy one.

    Thanks for sharing Lolly! 🙂

    Reply to this comment
    • lollydaskal

      13. Aug, 2013

      I agree with all that you say until you get to on the other hand.

      I would invite you to think of this instead:
      On the other hand, I do believe we need to retain a certain level of wonder expectations when it comes to certain things; like how we wonder how it would be treated want/need to be treated in a romantic relationship, or with a business partner. The kind of wonderment expectations that have to do with basic human dignity and respect.

      expectations set us up for disillusionment even when it comes to relationships and business partners.
      wonder gives us grace and expansiveness. a sense of wonder, takes us to places we did not know we can go.

      Lolly

      Reply to this comment
  9. Colleen_Cooley

    13. Aug, 2013

    “Wonder” ful!

    Reply to this comment
  10. john_paul

    13. Aug, 2013

    Hi Lolly,

    It is interesting, desires do not create suffering. It is the attachment to our desires that creates a discontent that can lead to unhappiness and even more dangerous outgrowths like anger and jealousy. Desires are good and so is the wonderment and flexibility to go with the flow.

    Hugs!

    Reply to this comment
    • lollydaskal

      13. Aug, 2013

      What you say is all true John!
      Great wisdom in your words.
      So good to see you. We miss you
      at lead from within. Hopefully
      we will see you tonight.

      Lolly

      Reply to this comment
  11. Karen Jolly

    13. Aug, 2013

    Wonderful Lolly! It is our expectations that often keep us from really experiencing in life. That attachment to what we expect to happen doesn’t allow the wonder that can emerge in any given moment. I think this is especially true in relationships. When we remove expectations and just enjoy the moments together is becomes magical. 🙂

    I loved the quotes in this! Thank you.

    xo
    Karen

    Reply to this comment
    • lollydaskal

      13. Aug, 2013

      So true Karen.

      And who would not want to experience magic instead of pain….

      Thanks so much for stopping by I truly appreciate all that you do in this WONDERFUL WORLD.
      Lolly

      Reply to this comment
  12. Garren Fagaragan

    13. Aug, 2013

    Aloha Lolly…

    I’m wondering if one can have both wonderment
    and expectations in their approach to life.

    Your description on how to relate with UNFULFILLED
    expectations…and using wonderment to uplift one’s
    view of a situation…is brilliant.

    I think Samantha makes an interesting point when she says expectations are not something we can separate ourselves from.

    From that perspective…I wonder about FULFILLED expectations.

    What happens to a child who expects to reach his or her dream…and does it?

    Or the individual living in poverty who expects to break free into a life of prosperity…and does it.

    Or a leader who expects to serve at least 10,000 people…
    and does it?

    hmmm…

    I wonder.

    Reply to this comment
    • lollydaskal

      13. Aug, 2013

      Garren,

      I loved your points but this is how I see it.

      What happens to a child who expects to reach his or her dream…and does it?

      THIS IS A DREAM.

      Or the individual living in poverty who expects to break free into a life of prosperity…and does it.

      THIS IS AN INTENTION.

      Or a leader who expects to serve at least 10,000 people…
      and does it?

      THIS IS A GOAL.

      I believe expectations sets us up for disappointment.
      A dream, a goal, an intention… something you strive for but
      its less emotional then expectations.

      I wonder what you think?
      Lolly

      Reply to this comment
      • Garren Fagaragan

        16. Aug, 2013

        Lolly…

        I see your view. I had not thought of
        the points I made in this way…so
        thank you.

        I’m still wondering. I don’t know the
        answer…but are there positive aspects to
        expectations?

        In line with your statement expectations set us
        up for disappointment…

        The great Swami Satchidananda said…

        You have disappointment because you set
        up an appointment.

        Thanks again for the post and initiating thought
        provoking dialog.

        I’ll end this

        Reply to this comment
  13. Maureen Gaffney

    14. Aug, 2013

    I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed reading your article. I personally think there is a plan for all of our lives and it is wonderful to see it unfold every day!

    Reply to this comment
  14. Terri Klass

    14. Aug, 2013

    This post really touched me, Lolly as I used to always get disappointed if things didn’t work out the way I planned. But through life and leadership experiences, I have come to accept showing up in the present and letting it be what is to be. Expectations are not reality and are poor predictors of what will happen. And you know what, I ‘m ok with wondering!
    Terri

    Reply to this comment
    • lollydaskal

      14. Aug, 2013

      Terri,

      Showing up in the present is not easy either, being in the moment sometimes brings pain too, so is life, so the best bet as you said, so beautifully letting it be what is to be.

      I know you are okay with wondering.

      You have a WONDERful heart.
      Lolly

      Reply to this comment
  15. Michael Friedman

    14. Aug, 2013

    Acting with intention is a good thing. Acting with attachments towards the outcome, not so much. It doesn’t matter whether you believe in fate, destiny, or synchronicity (different terms that mean the same thing). It is what it is and it is what it isn’t.

    When you see the perfection of imperfection, you are free to enjoy the magnificence of what is (i.e. detachment of the outcome, past, and what might happen in the future so that you enjoy being in the present).

    It’s OK to be disappointed with not getting a job/relationship for a brief moment. Then you should inhale, exhale and release. It’s a moment to learn about yourself and choose your state of mind after the moment has passed.

    In poker, winning players have to put themselves in the position to win over and over again so that when variance (luck) meets opportunity, they can strike. Not every hand dealt will score you chips. The goal is to not be attached to the outcome of an individual hand so you can be a winner over the long run. This is how winning players achieve longevity in the game. They play what is called “The Meta-game.”

    This occurs when a player sees not just the hand that is playing out, but everything his/her opponent has done during that session and over time, so they can maximize their ROI (return on investment) during the session they are currently involved in. They are constantly studying what works and what doesn’t work in every hand.

    They understand you can’t win them all and going on tilt is the quickest way to go bust. They act without expectations, but they also understand they should remain vigilant in moving towards a positive result over the long-run thanks to their level of expertise, the time they put in studying their opponents, and the fact that skill beats out luck the majority of time.

    Not everything works out the way you want it to, but if you don’t believe you can do it and you can do it when the cards come your way – you set yourself up for failure more often than not. This is a kind of expectation, but also an intention that is a requisite for anyone that is willing to take chances and stay in the game.

    There is a difference between confidence (intention) and cockiness (the expectations that you will win all of the time or that you should get this particular job or that particular relationship).

    Cockiness is having an expectation that things will go your way. Confidence is knowing you have the ability to bank on your talents when the times comes and that you can handle the good times and bad with ease because there is always another game to get into.

    Reply to this comment
  16. Michael Friedman

    14. Aug, 2013

    Cockiness – The dream I would write a comment for you Lolly without a typo. 😛

    Confidence – Knowing that despite a typo, I could still get my point across and support your post. 🙂

    Reply to this comment
  17. Jarrett

    14. Aug, 2013

    The quotes remind me of one of my favorite sayings “what we perceive to be real, it is real in its consequences” – W.I. Thomas. It reflects the subject of your post. But, shouldn’t you go into any situation with the expectation that things will go your way? I guess the trick is learning not to get upset or think the lesson of yourself if things do not go your way.
    Or we could just subscribe to the Homer Simpson philosophy that there is always going to be someone out there that’s better than you at something, so it’s pointless to even try :)think less of yourself.

    Reply to this comment
    • lollydaskal

      15. Aug, 2013

      Either W I Thomas or Homer Simpson. Whatever gets you not to be disappointed, not to feel pain.
      but gets you to keep an open mind, open heart and open will —that is the one I would subscribe to.

      Thanks Jarrett for stopping by.

      Reply to this comment
  18. Dan

    15. Aug, 2013

    Dear Lolly~
    This so reminds me of the old Zen story of the Farmer’s son (it can be googled). I won’t repeat the whole thing, but at each junction of fate, whether others are saying how fortunate or how unfortunate the event — the farmer replies, “Maybe, we’ll see.”

    What the farmer sees is the whole and lets his heart focus on the moment, not the head that wants to draw a linear path to happiness. There’s value in holding a positive vision for the future, but when that vision hooks us into believing that we MUST have it in order to be our best and to be happy, then Pandora’s box begins to open….

    This is true of our dreams, and true of our partners. If we MUST have this or that person in order to be happy, beware. Our ‘expectations,’ as you use that word, are often no more than proposed shortcuts to the true soul work we are meant to do. And the shortcuts all too easily end up as dead-ends (or lessons). Thank you for another lovely and insightful post!

    All the best
    Dan

    Reply to this comment
    • lollydaskal

      19. Aug, 2013

      Thanks Dan for sharing from your heart. I loved the farmer story. Thanks for bringing to our attention.

      See you on #leadfromwithin

      Love to you
      Lolly

      Reply to this comment
    • lollydaskal

      19. Aug, 2013

      ZEN STORY Dan was referring to:

      Maybe!

      Once upon the time there was an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically.

      “Maybe,” the farmer replied.

      The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed.

      “Maybe,” replied the old man.

      The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune.

      “Maybe,” answered the farmer.

      The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out.

      “Maybe,” said the farmer.

      Reply to this comment
  19. Sridhar Laxman

    16. Aug, 2013

    Lolly,
    Thank you for this insightful post. Unrealistic expectations can make us insecure and get us to doubt our true talents and capabilities. Improving the quality of our response in such situations rather than trying to change the situation itself can bring us greater clarity and inner peace.

    Reply to this comment

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